Draw a picture of a horse. Mine will look more like a stick horse unless I have something in front of me to draw from, then it will get a little better. The next person will draw a picture with amazing shading and detail. Another will use unrealistic colors to create their own style. The next will ask, “What kind of horse?” And another will draw the horse and include a barn setting for a background.
Romans 12:4-8 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
We all have a couple common tasks that Jesus gave us: to love others and to share the gospel and make disciples.
Through looking at scriptures about what Jesus did in his time here, we can get some idea of how he approached and treated others and we can pull from that just how it is that we’re supposed to carry out those tasks. But we also know that each of us has been given different gifts from God.
Just like how our task to draw a horse will be completed differently, how we love others or how we connect with them or even the methods we use to share the gospel will be different. But the result will be the same. A horse will be drawn. The gospel will be shared. In these few verses from Romans, it’s also made clear we’re to use the gifts we have to the best of our ability. My stick horse might be the best I can do but the horse will still get drawn. I can still take care to draw each line as straight and smoothly as I can.
But Jesus isn’t telling us to draw a horse or do something that doesn’t use skills God has given us. He’s telling us we all have different gifts and gives us examples like showing hospitality or mercy. You may not feel like you’re the best communicator, but you can still explain the gospel to a friend in the best way you know how to share it. A person whose gift is teaching may have an easier time of explaining the gospel to someone but it may be the kindness you show through your gift of hospitality that may be what God uses to make it easier for that person to really listen to the gospel message.
There are things we do in advance to prepare before getting on a bull or even being ready to get on our roping horse. We have to do these things or our next steps are guaranteed to fail or get us hurt.
2 Timothy 3:16-17All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Scripture is the same. This verse is where the idea comes from that the Bible is God’s living word, because it is God-breathed, meaning He gave life to it.
That alone should be enough to make us want to read our Bibles but then Paul tells us in his second letter to Timothy that the Bible prepares us for everything in advance. It teaches us what’s right and good, it can be used to give us correction when we’re wrong and it trains us to be more like Jesus. And, it prepares us for every good thing God has for us to do. Everything.
So basically, not just reading the Bible, but applying what we learn from it prepares us for what God has in store for us and prepares us to be used by God to help others learn from God’s living word.
Once we have a saving faith in Jesus and we’ve repented and asked for forgiveness of our sins, we’re still going to mess up and grace is there for when we do. God still loves and forgives us. We don’t have to do anything to earn His love, but just like there are things we have to do to succeed in the arena, God does have work prepared for us to do. Reading the Bible is what we need to do to prepare for what God wants us to do and to succeed in it.
Ephesians 2:10For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Again, we can’t earn our salvation but once we’re saved, God didn’t mean for us to do nothing. We are His handiwork; He made us and through our relationship with Jesus, he wants us to do good things. He begins to help us become more like Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit in us and he created us to do good works. Works are the actions we take that God prepared for us to do. They can be anything from sharing the gospel with a traveling partner going down the road to using the skills God gave us to help fix the car of a neighbor or a single mom struggling financially just to make it.
He’s prepared work for us in advance and we need to take steps to be ready to do that work. Reading the Bible is the first step to understanding what good works are; living out what it teaches is the next.
Leaves of three, come and see, so pretty, do touch me. Isn’t that how that goes?
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
Sometimes wisdom comes from personal experience. We really can learn from our mistakes. We can also learn from the experiences of others. We don’t have to touch poison ivy ourselves and experience days of itching rash, we can trust the wisdom of others. That’s where the real saying comes from: leaves of three, leave it be. Someone offered that piece of wisdom to make it easier to avoid the rash. That’s why you hear rodeo contestants asking about what to expect from the stock or bull they drew.
Sure, the unexpected can still happen but seeking advice is both using the wisdom of others and being wise ourselves in doing that.
But when we don’t know what to do, James tells us to seek wisdom from God and more often than what you might realize, His wisdom and the direction you need will be right there in the pages of the Bible. Digging in and knowing what’s in there for yourself is best but just like asking a more experienced competitor for advice on how much reign to give a bronc or what bull rope might work better for you, it’s wise to seek the wisdom of other Christians you know can help point you to the right scripture.
Through Cowboys of the Cross, we’re a small group of men with ties to the rodeo and bull riding, equestrian or ranch cowboy industries, who are here to try to help you gain stronger biblical knowledge and wisdom. We have new content on the this website every other Thursday to teach and encourage you, use social media to do the same and are literally a phone call or text away from you almost 24-7.
We don’t have all the answers but we also have more mature and knowledgeable believers who we turn to when we need wisdom or guidance. As James instructs, first pray to God to ask for His wisdom, but then turn to the pages of the Bible to seek that. If you’re stuck, seek advice from a more mature Christian who you know has wisdom you haven’t gained yet.
There’s a lot of opinions out there today about virtually everything and it’s arguable that we’ve never seen ourselves this divided in our lifetime.
It used to be we could agree to disagree and still be friends. And there was that old, unwritten rule about not talking about religion and politics. Of course for Christians, we understand we’re called to do the opposite when it comes to ‘religion’ and are actually commanded by Jesus to tell others about him. That can still be done without starting an argument. But arguing is what we do these days. We circle the wagons around those who are like-minded with us. Like those exploring and settling the west, we treat every encounter with a stranger as a potential threat.
We no longer keep our opinion to ourselves when that might be the easiest way to keep the peace. We exercise our constitutional rights and freedoms to their fullest and understandably, we are prepared to defend our freedoms.
In Galatians, Paul talks about freedom too but he means something very different.
Galatians 5:13-15For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”
The freedom Paul is referring to here is what is found in our saving faith in Jesus. When we’ve repented of our sin and asked to be forgiven in the full understanding that Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment meant for our sins, we are set free. God sees us as perfect and we are set free from the guilt and condemnation that comes from God those who have not heard or ignored the gospel, the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Knowing we’re no longer going to be condemned for our sin, Paul warns us not to take advantage of that to pursue our own sinful desires, but instead, to help others. He reminds us of the command from Jesus to love others the way we would want to be loved.
But look how relevant these verses are to our culture 2,000 years later. There are certainly amazing exceptions to this but one look at the news or especially our social media and personal conversations, and it is easy to see we’re ignoring this advice.
What do others see in our words and actions that would show them how great life is when you’re set free from the judgment of your sin?
Instead, his final warning becomes even more relevant. A non-believer looking at us at any given moment right now is more likely to see what Paul is warning about: people biting and devouring each other.
It’s a graphic description when we actually think about it but it needs to be if it’s warning Paul wants people to take seriously. Paul was writing to a church facing divisions over false teaching that was creeping into the church body. For us, we’re divided over almost everything within and outside the church and as issues like cancel culture arise, we literally are destroying each other just as Paul warns will happen when we lose focus on what the gift and grace of our salvation truly is.
The past year, on top of the personal struggles we face, we were all dealing with struggles that the pandemic brought from lock downs to canceled rodeos and horse shows.
Lost work, lost business, lost time with family gave us a lot to feel angry about.
And everyone knows it.
Whether it be on social media or face-to-mask conversations, we all have had a lot to say about how we feel and very little of it has been positive or encouraging. In the rodeo and bull riding industries, we continually talk about mindset and keeping positive attitudes. We rarely talk about that from a faith perspective.
The apostle Paul does in many ways in several of his letters. In Philippians, his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul writes many encouraging passages about being cheerful and Christ-like in our mindset and responses to our situations including one encouragement about our attitude when life might be rough.
Philippians 2: 14-16 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
When we have a saving faith in Jesus, we are given what’s known as the Great Commission to respond to at the end of the Book of Matthew. The commission commands us to tell others about Jesus and the salvation he brings and then to make disciples—teach others how to follow Christ.
That means being out there in an unbelieving world that generally rejects the messages of Jesus or sees him as no more than a positive teacher back in his day.
But if we are to convince others that Jesus was the Son of God who died in place of our sins that through belief and repentance of our sins, we can be saved from the punishment meant for our sins, it’s going to be a lot harder if they can’t see signs of Jesus in us.
The amount of complaining and fighting many of us have done over the past year would make it hard for others to see us as different than them. If our lives have been changed by a saving faith in Jesus, there are times when our actions or responses should surprise people by how different they are from everyone else.
Paul wanted the Christians in Philippi to be seen as ‘children of God’ that stood out among the evil that was around them and showed the light of Christ.
As Christians, we’re called to be like Christ, but we understand we’ll never truly be as perfect as him. We’re going to make mistakes. Admitting them to an unbelieving world and telling them that as Christians, we meant to do different is one step toward repairing any damage from our words or actions. Moving forward by ending our grumbling and taking a more joyful or kind approach to our situations can begin to show others that Christ lives inside of us.